If I showed you the sounds of scrolls, healing potions, and a key falling to the ground, you could probably guess which game they were from in a second. There are few game series that can be as identifiable by sound as Diablo. I’m happy to report that it’s still a staple of the fourth installment. When I started the open beta of the highly anticipated Diablo IV, on day one, I couldn’t play much. I had to queue and wait over an hour. Once inside they kicked me out after an hour of playing. However, this was all to be expected and by day two these issues had already been resolved.
The first thing that strikes you is how familiar everything is. At its core, Diablo is an RPG that wanted to focus on action sequences and minimize storytelling. Slaying monsters has always taken center stage, and I’ve always enjoyed it, however, I’ve also wanted to see more of the world and its inhabitants, and Diablo IV surprises with the amount of storytelling. With new camerawork (your character appears and speaks), more characters to talk to than before, and plenty of cutscenes, Diablo breaks new ground. If we get more storytelling, it needs to be of a high enough quality to be interesting, and my first impressions of Diablo IV are that sometimes it does.
I like to reflect on art books, listen to Deckard Cain talk about a monster, or just learn a little more about the world. In Diablo IV, my experience is that Blizzard has gone the extra mile to make the world and its inhabitants more meaningful, and that includes the supernatural as well. We learned about the main characters in previous episodes and there are no changes here. Inarius, an archangel who has been banished, takes on the role of father figure, and the contrast with evil is a focal point. Then this Lilitha demon and daughter of Mephisto, who introduces herself as Sanctuary’s mother. Both created the world, but now they are in conflict with each other. Everyone and everything falls squarely between these forces and others try to manipulate events in their favor. Although he recognized the characters, he still wanted to know how it all ended. The main missions follow the colossal clash, the last breath of Horadrim, but most of it was stuck in the beta. Out of respect, I won’t reveal the plot, but what I can say is that I can’t wait to follow the journey to the end.
The gameplay is also relevant. What surprised me were all the activities in the world. All the small side quests and all the small world events in progress. There was some repetition in the design of events, but most missions had good voice acting and interesting stories. They could cover anything from an exorcism to a child’s funeral or a friend’s salvation, and I liked the quality of many of them. They talked about life in cities, the influence of demons, sadness and hope. But unfortunately the activities were repetitive in nature. There are recurring caravans or individuals that you need to protect, and while you don’t have to, hopefully we’ll see a bit more variety in the full game.
It’s clear that Diablo IV is following in the footsteps of the third installment and Immortal. It is made to accommodate many players and be a more social experience. I had a great time killing one of the world bosses and running in a group was awesome. This is further reinforced by classes, which have some interesting synergies, for example, an ice mage lends itself well to someone who can do a lot of damage. Yet Diablo is at its best when I’m alone traversing an old crypt among tombs and scrolls. The battles in these locations are equally fantastic and I would say the best in the series.
I chose to play as a Witch. Barbarian and Rogue are also good classes in Diablo IV, but I preferred Sorceress. This class destroys environments with magic and unfortunately I couldn’t test the druid and necromancer in beta for comparison as they were locked. Early on, I chose to specialize my mage with electrical abilities because throwing lightning bolts that bounce and literally fry monsters is fun. I found that each skill had a use, the only problem being that I could only level up to level 25. This forced me to drop other skills, like fire and ice. When it comes to class development, the skill tree is divided into branches that you work your way through. You can only advance if you have put a point in the previous skill, and to advance to the next branch you often need to acquire a certain number of skills before you can acquire more powerful ones. It’s simple, intuitive and works very well.
To help your character survive beyond your powers in battle, there’s a classic item system. Your gear is in your backpack and, in classic terms, you choose what to wear and what to put in your backpack. What stands out is that you don’t have any portals, ID scrolls, or tons of potions. This time you have a series of health potions at the start that you can upgrade with resources you find in the wild, and it depends on what level your character is at. By completing certain in-game challenges, you can also increase the number of potions you can carry. Like in Diablo III, enemies drop red items, which you can pick up to increase the potion count. It’s simplistic and crisp, and clearly a mix of Diablo II and III.
In towns, you can also sell, buy, upgrade, scrap, and add magic bonuses to your gear. I took the opportunity to clear special caves to unlock powers which I could then spend money and resources on to upgrade my weapons or armor with additional effects like barriers around you if you stick your sword in a difficult enemy. The classic gem system is also back, and you can combine them to create bigger and more powerful gems of the same type. As before, stones increase your team’s abilities by percentage.
Once equipped, armored, magically enhanced and immersed in the world, you will realize the scale of the game. It takes time to traverse the world between all the enemies, and even if you haven’t had enough long to acquire horses in the beta, they are there to help you get over great distances. Of course, there are also teleportation portals like before, but they are rare and no longer exist in caves, only in cities on the world map. However, don’t think that means long distances without much happening. On the contrary, you are constantly attacked, you encounter side quests all the time, as well as the discovery of caves and events. Sometimes I could say the game throws too many things at you too often, but I had fun with the beta when it worked. The gameplay is good, despite some repetitive bosses and events, and I like the story. The variety of enemies is also great, however, it’s not perfect and hopefully we won’t have glitches like what happened on the first day of this beta at launch.
The biggest issues and problems I have encountered so far are technical. Shift, rewind steps and so on, because the server doesn’t recognize what you’ve done. There’s also the fact that you’re booted and have to wait hours to reconnect. There are a lot of things to say about this problem, and they are all the consequence of having to be connected to the internet at all times. It’s too early to say any other concerns at this time.
I had a lot of fun with the beta and Diablo IV while it was running, and it looks like this will be one of the highlights of the year for me. I may be playing it “badly” according to the developers, but it’s still more fun to play alone than with two people. Despite its online focus, I think the basis of a good game is here. For the most part, there are good improvements over previous systems and it looks like I can customize my abilities in a number of ways. The story is gripping and the fights are probably the best in the series.
Brent Dubin, known as the Gaming Giant among Globe Live Media staff, is the chief Gaming Reporter for Globe Live Media. Having attended all the major events of Gaming around the World, he is sure to give you exactly the update related to gaming world you are looking for.
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